Woman & Home - - Behind The Scenes -

there re­ally is some­thing spe­cial about work­ing on a panto. Every­one is in a good mood as it’s Christ­mas, and no one can fail to be en­chanted by the kids’ ex­cited faces – al­though there are plenty of laughs for adults in pan­tomimes too. Hear­ing the cries of “He’s be­hind you!” never fails to give me goose­bumps. this year I’ll be chore­ograph­ing Snow White at the beau­ti­ful lon­don Pal­la­dium – and

I’m so ex­cited that Dawn French is star­ring as the Wicked Queen!

It’s truly a team ef­fort. I have an as­sis­tant who will be dance cap­tain – the per­son who looks after the show when I’m not there. I take it to open­ing night, then come back ev­ery now and then to check it’s run­ning smoothly. but there al­ways needs to be some­one there.

For in­stance, if a dancer goes off sick, we need to move peo­ple around to make sure the per­for­mance is as slick as ever. We have 26 pro­fes­sional dancers in this year’s show, and they all have to be mul­ti­tal­ented. they have to sing, dance and act – one minute they’re tap­danc­ing, the next they’re do­ing part­ner work – it’s all high-en­ergy, de­mand­ing stuff. I work very closely with the mu­sic de­part­ment too. to­gether, we sit down with Michael Har­ri­son, the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and di­rec­tor, who tells us what num­bers there will be, and we go from there. For ex­am­ple, if there’s go­ing to be a med­ley with dancers in snow­men cos­tumes, we might ex­ag­ger­ate the dance break, build the mu­sic to a big crescendo or have snow­drops at this point. We’ll take a mu­si­cal num­ber and shape ideas, fan­tasy and sto­ry­telling around it.

Put­ting the steps to the mu­sic ac­tu­ally hap­pens quite late on in the process, nearer when the re­hearsals be­gin in No­vem­ber. I do a week of prep, which is just me and an as­sis­tant in the stu­dio, then I have two weeks prac­tis­ing with the cast, fol­lowed by a week of “tech­ni­cal”, when we all go into the theatre to re­hearse on the stage, with all the light­ing and cos­tumes. then >>

“Hear­ing cries of ‘He’s be­hind you!’ gives me goose­bumps”

it’s show­time! This is Dawn French’s de­but panto and I’m so ex­cited, as I’m a huge fan, and have never worked with her be­fore. I haven’t been told that she’s do­ing masses of danc­ing but I’m hop­ing I can get a few steps in for her and Ju­lian Clary, who’s play­ing The

Man in the Mir­ror, if she’s up for it!

Ex-Strictly Come Danc­ing stars Vin­cent and Flavia are also in the show, play­ing The King and Queen. That’s go­ing to be such an en­joy­able re­union, as we worked to­gether on Strictly, and I also di­rected and chore­ographed their last four theatre shows. Their danc­ing style is so spe­cial, so it’s go­ing to be fun blend­ing their ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ent into the show.

Panto is of­ten the first the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence chil­dren have, so the danc­ing needs to be mag­i­cal. You’re in­tro­duc­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of the­atre­go­ers to the stage! I used to go to the Pal­la­dium as a kid and would think, “I want to do this,” so re­ally,

I’ve come full cir­cle in my ca­reer.

Of course, there’s al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity of dis­as­ter in a pro­duc­tion of this scale. But our cast is so pro­fes­sional that the au­di­ence would never know if some­thing goes hor­ri­bly wrong. It’s all about keep­ing the story go­ing – we def­i­nitely want to give the au­di­ence their happy ever after.

✢ Snow White, 8 De­cem­ber-13 Jan­uary; snowwhitepal­la­

Karen Bruce, 55, is an Olivier­award-win­ning chore­og­ra­pher. She is work­ing onSnow White at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium, star­ring Dawn French. Her TV cred­its in­clude chore­ograph­ing five sea­sons of Strictly Come Danc­ing, as well as ant andDec’s Satur­day Night Take­away.

Karen’s back at the Pal­la­dium after last year’s huge suc­cess IT’S ALL ABOuT YOu!

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